On Wednesday, the ECHL's Greenville Road Warriors announced they will have a completely new identity next season. Introducing the Greenville Swamp Rabbits!
The South Carolina minor league club unveiled its new name, logos and jerseys on Wednesday.
I know what you're thinking. What the heck is a swamp rabbit? Actually, it turns out to be a brilliant and unique brand for this franchise.
When the news first came, like most, I was confused. The Road Warriors seemed like a decent name. So today I spoke with media relations manager Alan Fuehring to get the inside scoop.
First, let's roll back the clock to 2010, when a founding member of the ECHL, the Johnstown Chiefs, was forced to relocate. The club ended up in Greenville, S.C., a city that had seen the demise of its own team, the Greenville Grrrowl, four years earlier.
In June 2010, it was announced the team would be named the Greenville Road Warriors. Locals were not exactly taken with the new moniker. But over the years, it grew on fans while the team made the playoffs every spring up until 2014-15.
At the end of their second season, the Road Warriors were sold to Fred Festa in April 2012. This year, with the signing of a new lease at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Festa decided it was time to put his own stamp on the franchise with a new identity.
But it wasn't about him. Festa wanted the team to be further ingrained in the local culture and to have an identity that couldn't be duplicated. Let's face it, hundreds of high school teams around the country are called the Warriors — and there's even an NBA team with that ubiquitous nickname.
And so the Swamp Rabbits were born. The genesis is detailed in the club's press release:
The Swamp Rabbits represent a piece of Greenville history that ... pays homage to the legacy of the historic train line.
The railroad received its nickname, the “Swamp Rabbit” by locals who would use the freight train as a means of transportation to picnic in northern Greenville County.
Today you can find this railroad marker located beside the “Swamp Rabbit” Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses over the Reedy River just off of South Main Street.
You gotta love that. There's nothing like a bit of hometown flavor to get your brand to stand out. But a name isn't enough. You need amazing logos.
For that, the team turned to Brandiose, a California-based design firm that specializes in incredible sports branding. And it wasn't just one or two logos either. Fuehring shared with me about a half dozen different designs incorporated into the package.
The execution of this brand is unbelievable. We often give the minors a hard time for being kooky or too focused on the under-18 fanbase. But this identity is so clever and well thought out that it gives me hope for all minor league hockey teams.
I don't know what it cost them, but I do know it was worth every penny.
Unfortunately where the look sputters is in the jersey department. The team will wear the same basic sweaters it did as the Road Warriors with the logos replaced. Essentially, they're a variation on the Toronto Maple Leafs' throwback jersey.
But if you're just looking at the logos, it's hard not to love this team. I sincerely hope the Swamp Rabbits have a place in Greenville for a long time to come.
That's just me. What's your take on the rebrand?